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Cleveland Rocked - How to Recover from Key Injuries to the Tribe

Things aren't going well for the Cleveland Indians in 2019. The offense did very little to try and improve over the offseason, watching left fielder Michael Brantley and catcher Yan Gomes walk and trading slugger Edwin Encarnacion and infielder Yandy Diaz. Carlos Santana has looked great, but Jake Bauers has not performed as well as Diaz and the catching and outfield positions have been disasters.

Then, there are the injuries. Oh boy. Jose Ramirez is healthy now but he missed some time in spring training, which could be contributing to his slow start. Jason Kipnis is on the disabled list, and then the two big ones: shortstop Francisco Lindor, who has not played this year and isn't expected back until late-April, and star pitcher Mike Clevinger, who manager Terry Francona said won't pick up a baseball for six-to-eight weeks.

Whew. So is there any hope here? Perhaps some waiver wire flyers who could step up in this mess and succeed? Or is it time to cut bait on most of the offense, and instead stream against them for the rest of the season? Let's take a look.

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Patience, Not Panic

Francisco Lindor, SS

Obviously, no one should be cutting Lindor, who was almost certainly their first or second round pick. He's started jogging this week, and is still poised for a late-April return. How this injury affects his speed remains to be seen, but there's no reason to not expect your first round pick to play like one once he returns.

Mike Clevinger, SP

Clevinger's injury is much more concerning. If Francona is correct, Clevinger won't be picking up a ball until late-May at the earliest, which could easily push his return until after the All-Star break. Any kind of set back at all and he could miss the rest of the season, which would be a devastating loss for the Indians and for fantasy owners after he cruised through his first two starts. Still, for now Clevinger needs to take up a spot on your injured list unless word comes out that he won't be back this season.

Jose Ramirez, 2B/3B

As of this writing, Ramirez is slashing a paltry .143/.178/.190 with zero home runs, although his three steals is a small consolation prize. Of course, it's wicked early in the season, and his .171 BABIP doesn't line up with his 37.1% hard hit rate. I wouldn't be too concerned here, although I don't like his 4.4% walk rate.

Still - you're not trading him for pennies on the dollar this early in the year, so wait this thing out. Lindor's return could light a fire under Ramirez and jumpstart this entire offense.

Carlos Carrasco, SP

Carrasco has a 7.71 ERA and a 1.93 WHIP on the season, which is bad. However, it's the product of one disastrous start (4 1/3 IP, 6 ER) and one gem (5 IP, 2 ER, 12 K). Carrasco just kind of does this, has a few excellent starts mixed with a handful of clunkers. He's always been a better asset in roto leagues than in weekly formats, simply because his stinkers can cost an owner an entire week. If you own him in that format, brace yourself for the stinkers. But overall, he's not a guy you want to be cutting bait on after one ugly start, else you miss those gems.


Names to Watch

Jake Bauers, 1B/OF

Bauers was always a contact-oriented, patient hitter at the plate throughout the minors. He abandoned that a bit last year, swinging more for the fences which did lead to 11 home runs in 96 games, but also a 26.8% strikeout rate.

He appears to have gone back to his previous approach this year however, cutting his strikeout rate way down to just 16.2% with a 10.8% walk rate. He's only hitting .182 thanks to a .192 BABIP, although he's not hitting the ball very hard and has a near 50% ground ball rate, which isn't helping his case.

I'd keep an eye on him though if you play in OBP leagues, as I think he could have mixed league value in those formats when all is said and done. However, he shouldn't be owned in 10-teamers at the moment, and is probably cuttable in 12-teamers as well.

Leonys Martin, OF

As I'm writing this, Martin has hit a home run and stolen a base against the Tigers. That gives him two dingers and one steal on the year, with a .216/.341/.432 slash line. His 13.6% walk rate is really nice, but his 36.4% strikeout rate is ghastly and definitely cause for concern.

Martin should be the starter in CF throughout the season, although if he doesn't start hitting more consistently he could lose playing time to Greg Allen or Bradley Zimmer later on. He's a fine add in deeper leagues, but not worth a look in 12-teamers just yet.

Carlos Gonzalez, OF

The Indians outfield is what nightmares are made of. Martin and Bauers will rebound to some extent, but Jordan Luplow, Tyler Naquin and Greg Allen don't carry a lot of pedigree with them, and none should be big league regulars.

It's been a while since CarGo was fantasy relevant outside of deep leagues, and a move away from the friendly confines of Coors Field isn't ideal for the aging slugger. However, he's still posted 70+ runs, 57+ RBI and 14+ home runs in each of the last two seasons.

If he ends up getting a starting job in Cleveland - which could happen in the next 10 days thanks to an opt-out in his minor league contract, he is worth a look in deeper formats. Cleveland will likely shuffle around their outfielders, so he probably won't get enough playing time to merit 12-team consideration, but he's worth keeping an eye on.

Triston McKenzie, SP

A forearm injury has kept McKenzie from making his 2019 debut, but once he shows he is healthy it might not be too long before the No. 40 prospect is up in the big leagues. The Indians have yet to announce who will replace Clevinger in the rotation, although it will probably be Adam Plutko or Cody Anderson, neither who inspire much confidence. McKenzie could end up stealing that spot at some point, and his prospect pedigree makes him an immediate add in deeper formats, and someone who should be on the watchlist in 12-teamers as well.

Bradley Zimmer, OF

Bradley Zimmer has been a fantasy target for years now, thanks to his intriguing blend of power and speed. However, injuries have really slowed his development, and have pushed back his debut in 2019. It's unclear exactly when he will return, probably sometime in May, but he's worth a look once that happens, particularly in deeper leagues.

Hanley Ramirez, 1B

I'm super intrigued by Ramirez so far this season. He has a 32.4% strikeout rate and a .200 average, but also a ridiculous 18.9% walk rate, a .351 OBP and a pair of home runs as Cleveland's primary designated hitter. I suspect he'll lose a lot of playing time once the entire Indians team is healthy, as Bauers could shift to 1B and Santana could DH. However, if you are in a deeper league or an AL-only format - particularly one that counts OBP - I may take a look at HanRam as a plug-in.

More 2019 Fantasy Baseball Advice